More Junkmail from Bob!

Thursday, March 15, 2001
Important Stuff.

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Aimster's Pig Encoder

Last week I mentioned how Aimster's Pig Encoder could be used to automatically misspell song names for Napster so they can be downloaded without being noticed by the record companies. I also mentioned that it wouldn't last long. Well, Tuesday Napster asked Aimster to knock it off, so they did. But Pulsenewmedia, a Canadian company, released a similar program this week.,1367,42433,00.html

Keeping Count

I keep hearing people argue about the census. People say (choose one)

        (a) 10%
        (b) 5%
        (c) 3%
        (d) many

of the
        (a) blacks
        (b) hispanics
        (c) martians

in this

        (a) city
        (b) county
        (c) state
        (d) parallel universe

were not counted in the U.S. 2000 Census. I wonder, since they know who wasn't counted, why didn't they count them in the first place? This sounds a little shaky to me, especially since the people hollering about being shorted in the census are usually those who stand to make money with bigger numbers. Am I getting cynical in my old age?

While unsuccessfully searching for a little logic today's politics, I heard about the "faith based initiative." No, this has nothing to do with counting votes in Florida. It's G-Dubbya's plan to give government money to churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc. to perform good social deeds like feed hungry people or rehabilitate drunk lawyers.

I can see where this would open up a whole bunch of problems, like whose religion gets the most money, why don't the newly discovered religions get extra money for casinos that serve cheap food, and the minor question of separation of church and state.

Never mind all that, Dubbya says, those are details we can work out. Maybe it's like they worked out the details of the Americans with Disabilities Act, where Congress said, "We'll let the courts sort it out." But Dubbya says this is what Americans want.

I'll take Dubbya at his word. It's a good thing, and the details can be worked out. But... if it's what Americans want, why should we be forcibly taxed and that money redistributed to the faith-based organizations by the politicians? Seems like it would be a lot more efficient for me to donate directly to the faith-based organizations of my choice. Surely some politicians and their buds are not planning to make money on this, are they?  Hmm... I wonder how many highly paid political appointees will be required to administrate the faith-based initiative.

I would like to point out that I have been quite politically correct in using the new term "faith-based organization" more than once. Incidentally, I believe if you consult with any astronaut you'll find that NASA should definitely be included in this group of organizations.


eBay is getting more and more popular all the time. You can find almost anything there. A TRS-80 Model I computer, a plow, a typewriter, an atomic bomb replica, and the complete dead sea scrolls in English are now available to the highest bidder. Just how popular is eBay? About $17,000,000 a DAY is sold on eBay.

As you might guess, with that much money changing hands it has attracted some nefarious merchants of questionable ethics. Three people just got charged with false bidding to drive up the price of some art. They created 40 fake users to make false bids. They were also charged with fraud and money laundering.

By coincidence, one of them was Ken Walton of Sacramento. He made last May 14's Junkmail. I think that's what started this investigation. Not the Junkmail, but the $135,000 bid by a Dutch guy on a fake painting that Ken was selling.


Tired of getting Junkmail? California is sending the spammers to jail. Mike and Frank, from San Diego, sent out a several thousand junk emails. They were charged with felonies. I think this is only the second time in the country that criminal charges were brought against spammers. It would have been just a misdemeanor, but they were using fake email addresses and they managed to crash someone's email server really bad.

A Ramblin' Wreck

Georgia Tech is going wireless. They're putting in network transceivers all over campus so students and faculty members who still have their faculties can access the network using wireless net cards. It's supposed to work anywhere on campus. I suspect they may have limited coverage in the restrooms of the football stadium, however.

Stupid Patent News

NCR is suing Palm and Handspring, saying that NCR has a patent on handheld computers. That's interesting because the patent was issued in 1987. The patents are titled ''Portable personal terminal for use in a system for handling transactions,'' and "System for handling transactions including a portable personal terminal.'' The patents are just about as vague as the titles.

Rambus, the company whose business is suing chipmakers, is about to be dealt a blow by Judge Robert, limiting the scope of Rambus's patents. He's decided that the patents don't apply to SDRAM or DDR memory. It would really be ridiculous if they did. Of course, that never stopped the USPTO before.

Greenhouses, Satellites, and Lasers

The journal Nature has an article showing strong evidence that from satellite data that greenhouse gases have increased significantly on the earth from 1970 to 1997. I think there was little change on Mars and Venus, although there is a big difference between the two.

They're undecided on how much the increase matters, but it bears further study. The additional CO2, etc., cause more warming. but this causes more clouds, which reflects more light, which causes more cooling. Overall things will probably get warmer over the next century, but nobody knows how much.

In response to the article, the U.S. government is pushing for new oil exploration in Alaska and offshore Florida. G-Dubbya also announced that some power companies can continue with their clean-air waivers, even though he said the opposite before the election.

In a not-too-related-but-still-interesting development, the Department of Energy is researching laser drilling for gas wells. There are some problems to overcome. For example, in a normal drilling rig drilling mud is pumped down the hole, and it carries the residue up to the top. Laser light doesn't penetrate mud very well. Maybe it can vaporize everything? Also, it takes a LOT of power to dig a gas well with a laser.

The Picture of Today

75 years ago tomorrow, Robert H. Goddard launched his first liquid-fueled rocket to the amazing altitude of 40 feet. Here he is with his first rocket 75 years ago:


He designed and built 35 rockets in his career, and developed a lot of the things that rockets still use today. Check out the NASA 75th anniversary web site:

(o) 1926, all flights preserved. Any unauthorized duplication and distribution of the bits contained herein is hereby expressly authorized, and so cannot be unauthorized. But if you do, in fact, intend to copy this fine piece of literature you should check with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make sure that 0's and 1's are not yet patented.

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I'm Bob Webster and usually inhabit Have a nice day!